Roundtable – Developing edtech with Claire Duly

In the fourth in our series, Steve Wright finds out how edtech in the developing world is advancing and driving educational change.

Claire Duly is Head of English partnerships at the British Council in Jordan.

Q. Which developing countries are benefiting most from edtech?

Political will and engagement seems to be one of the most important factors in embedding edtech into school systems for both teachers and students. In Rwanda, for example, the prime minister’s drive to establish the country as a leader and a hub for innovation for the region means that he has become heavily involved – to a granular level of detail – in education projects and programmes that harness the power of appropriate edtech.

This is one of the reasons why Rwanda was selected to host the e-learning conference in 2018. The British Council has partnered with the Rwandan government on the Building Learning Foundations programme, which is working to improve learning outcomes in English and Mathematics in all primary schools, ensuring that Rwandan children have the required foundational skills to make successful progress through the system [see link at end of feature].

Q. What kinds of edtech are being employed in developing countries? And which are proving successful?

This is quite a broad question, and the Education Development Trust has carried out some research into this [see link at end of feature]. Generally speaking, though, the edtech that works well in developing countries:

  Can be supported by existing hardware and software,

  Consists of material that teachers and teacher educators have used for their own professional development, and are comfortable with,

  Uses minimal bandwidth and has offline capabilities,

  Supports bilingual or multilingual and script needs,

  Hosts content that is contextually appropriate, relevant and engaging, and

  Is used in a clear, coherent and conducive manner to support both classroom and self-directed learning.

Q. What do educators in developing countries want most from edtech suppliers?

This is an interesting question. In Jordan specifically, there are often requests for apps and online content to support teachers and students in achieving the goals of the Ministry of Education’s curriculum and core subject learning outcomes. This means that bespoke content would need to be produced – which is costly and not scalable, particularly when curricula and assessments are constantly being reviewed.

Not only in developing countries but more globally, people want meaningful, relevant and relatable content on platforms and devices that are user-friendly. I think we should be careful about making a distinction here between the developing and the developed world – in a lot of senses the audiences and their needs are similar. It is more their operating context and environment that needs consideration.

Q. What are the biggest challenges facing different countries around the implementation of edtech?

National priorities around infrastructure, maintenance and training are the biggest challenges from where I speak in Jordan – and a lot of this can be extrapolated to similar contexts. Investment in infrastructure without a training or maintenance plan will die a very quick death, and often the funding remaining for training is so limited that, even if the infrastructure is resourced and maintained, the majority of individuals and institutions will not take full advantage out of fear.

From an NGO perspective, it is easy and quantifiable to put 100 computers in 100 classrooms and report that schools are now ‘edtech capable’. An investment in supporting a culture of lifelong learning is much more challenging, so is often passed over in favour of something more ‘countable’.

There needs to be a long-term vision for what training looks like at all ages and in all sectors when it comes to edtech, and real acknowledgement by higher education institutions of the value of online platforms and self-directed learning. There is still a large experiential gap between teachers, lecturers and education leaders and learners in primary, secondary and tertiary settings. This gap needs to bridged, resolutely and over time.

Further reading

Building Learning Foundations programme, Rwanda:

Rwanda hosts 2018 international conference on ICT for development, education & skills:

Omidyar Network Ecosystems Framework:

Technology-supported CPD for teachers – lessons from developing countries:

RTI Global Learning XPRIZE Data Summary:

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